2102. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 28 May 1812

2102. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 28 May 1812 ⁠* 

Thursday. May 28. 1812.

Your letter has relieved us this evening from a most anxious expectation. to say that it has increased my vexation would not be true, for nothing could add to that. It is beyond measure vexatious to think that this White-widow as poor Jopy Nicolson [1]  calls her in Cumbrian-English, should have taken up her abode on the hill here just at this time! [2]  — I thought of poor Bunbury’s house, but it seems Col. Bunbury is coming to it himself. It is not likely however that he will think of making it his residence, even if he withdraws from public life. — There is General Peches great house, [3]  — but that is far too large, even if the old part were let off, which it might be, being sufficiently separate: & they ask a heavy rent for it — 70£. I think, — this will never be given for it, but still it will hardly be lowered to any reasonable price, even if the house were in other respects more desirable. As for Mrs Coleridges part, [4]  it is wholly occupied every summer, except the two upper rooms. You must come down to us as soon as you can, & look about at leisure. White-Widow has a three years lease, & is laying out money as if she meant to make it her permanent abode. But she goes to London in the winter, & her money is likely enough to get her taken out of our way, in the way of honest matrimony. Besides the backguard boys call her Neddy in the street, & perhaps this may dispose her to think of moving. There is this chance; — there is the probability of Col. Bunbury’s, something else may turn up & you must come & wait for the chance.

But alas for the furniture! He who demonstrated that the world might be compressed into a nut-shell [5]  would have been puzzled to find room here for your furniture. When you come you will see how full we are. All that is not of immediate use had better be packed up & stowed away at Teddesley till a place is found for it here. What you want may come by canal as far as Burton, — eleven miles short of Kendal.

— Your letter has justified my fears. I can perfectly enter into your feelings, — but am not the less sorry that they should have this gratification. I always apprehended that when Sir E. made his will he would forget that money is not of the same value now that it was forty years ago. [6]  In the disposal of his property he seem to have acted with the most perfect propriety: perhaps it would have been better not to have had this disposition kept secret, if by letting the young man know the certainty of his expectations he could at the same time have taught him to feel that he ought to inherit the views & wishes & oaths of his predecessor. It is very gratifying to see that you speak of his conduct in such terms.

Ediths love. You will be well pleased with your god-daughter. We shall have much to talk of when you come —

God bless you



* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Teddesley/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire.
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 400–402
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Jopy Nicolson; a Keswick resident. BACK

[2] Mary Barker’s plans to move into Greta Lodge were frustrated by the former mistress and heiress of William White of Keswick (d. 1811). BACK

[3] Major-General John Peché (d. 1823), of the East India Company Army. BACK

[4] i.e., the other half of Greta Hall. BACK

[5] Possibly an adaptation of Hamlet, Act II, scene 2, line 263. BACK

[6] In Sir Edward Littleton’s will Mary Barker was bequeathed £500, an annuity of £200 and all the gifts and furniture that Sir Edward had bought for her use. BACK

Places mentioned

Teddesley (mentioned 1 time)